Monday, April 10, 2006

Ghadar Movement against British Raj

Barkatullah of Bhopal, one of the founders of the Ghadar party who created a network of anti-British Organizations and who died penniless in Germany in 1927; Syed Rahmat Shah of the Ghadar party who worked as an underground revolutionary in France and was hanged for his part in the unsuccessful Ghadar uprising in 1915; Ali Ahmad Siddiqui of Fyzabad (U.P.) who planned the Indian Mutiny in Malaya and Burma alongwith Syed Mujtaba Husain of Jaunpur and who was hanged in 1917; Umar Sobhani, an industrialist and a millionaire of Bombay who presented a blank cheque to Gandhiji for Congress expenses and who ultimately gave his life for the cause of Independence, Mohammad Basheer, Khuda Bux, A. Zakaria, Zafar Hasan, Allah Nawaz, Abdul Aziz and tens of thousands of revolutionaries have been ignored.

Many Sikh, Muslim and Hindu Punjabis who tasted freedom outside colonial India in USA started Ghadr movement to free India from British rule in early 1900's. These Punjabis, mostly Sikh, were sent to Canada which was under British rule for labour work. They crossed the border over to USA and settled in Western Coast of USA in cities like Portland, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. These Punjabis created Gurdwaras and established societies. They were subject to draconian laws like "not allowed to marry to american woman" by many of these states at that time. The first Indian political organization to call for complete independence from British rule was the Ghadar (or Gadar) Party, organized in 1913 by Indian immigrants in California. The Ghadar movement was remarkable for many reasons. Although Sikhs from Punjab made up the majority of it's founding members, the movement was completely devoid of any trace of regional or religious chauvinism. It's platform was uncompromisingly secular and called for a total rejection of any form of caste discrimination. And unlike the Congress, it's membership was primarily drawn from the working class and poor peasantry. Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus of all castes (including Dalits) were welcomed in the movement without bias or discrimination.
The literature of the Ghadar Party was also the clearest in describing the depth of misery that the common people of India experienced under British rule. They were also amongst the first to anticipate the outbreak of the First World War. Correctly sensing that it was an opportunity for the Indian people to liberate themselves from the yolk of colonial rule, they called for a mass movement for total independence. In their widely distributed poster, "Jang Da Hoka" (Declaration of War) they warned of the danger of Indian soldiers being drawn into the British War effort in the First World War.
Unfortunately, the Congress failed to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity and leaders like Gandhi went as far as campaigning for the British War effort, calling upon Indians to enroll in the British Army. This treacherous and sycophantic policy of Gandhi not only drew biting criticism from Ghadar activists, but opposition from other quarters also emerged.
At a time when Gandhi was still addressing "War Recruitment Melas'', Dr. Tuljaram Khilnani of Nawabshah publicly campaigned against War Loan Bonds. Sindh was then part of Bombay Presidency and the Sindh Congress, part of Bombay Provincial Congress Committee. When Gandhi sought election to the AICC from Bombay PCC, the delegate from Sindh opposed his election in view of his support to the British war effort.
Nevertheless, by and large, the Congress was a relatively conservative organization at this time and drew stinging criticism from the Ghadarites. Rejecting the notion that freedom could be won by participating in the oppressive bureaucracy of the British or by pleading with the British for reforms or self-rule, the Ghadarites believed that only a militant mass movement that involved workers and peasants and all other sections of Indian society on a non-sectarian basis could succeed. They envisaged an India that would not only be free from exploitation by the British but would also be free from hunger, homelessness and disease. In their vision of India there would be no place for religious superstition or any socially sanctioned inequities.
Although the Ghadar movement started in California, chapters were established all over the world and by 1916, a million copies of their weekly pamphlet were published and circulated. As the movement grew in strength, there were plans to set up cells of the Ghadar party all over India and thousands of young volunteers attempted to return home and initiate local chapters wherever they could. The British, realizing the dangers posed by this extremely radical movement moved quickly and closed in on the revolutionaries. Hundreds were charged for sedition in the five Lahore Conspiracy Cases. According to one estimate, a total of 145 Ghadarites were hanged, and 308 were given sentences longer than 14 years. Several were sentenced to hard labour in the notorious prison known as Kala Pani in the Andamans.
The Ghadarites were especially successful in winning over Indian soldiers in the British Army and enticing them to revolt. Soldiers in the Hongkong regiments were arrested and court-martialed for distributing Ghadar and sent back to India and imprisoned. Two Singapore regiments rebelled in Penang, but the rebellion was brutally crushed. In Rangoon in January 1915, the 130th Baluchi regiment revolted. 200 soldiers of this regiment were court-martialed. Four soldiers were hanged, 69 were given life imprisonment and 126 were given rigorous imprisonment for varying terms. Pandit Sohan Lal Pathak, one of the outstanding leaders of the Ghadar Party was hanged on February 10, 1916 in Mandalay jail for inciting rebellion against the British rule. The Party was also active amongst Indian soldiers in Iraq and Iran. As a result of their work, the 15th Lancers, stationed in Basra revolted and 64 soldiers were court-martialed. Similarly, the 24th Punjabi and 22nd Pahari regiments also revolted.

The word Ghadr can be commonly translated as mutiny, was the name given to the newspaper edited and published for the Hindustani Association of the Pacific Coast which was founded at Portland, United States of America, in 1912. The movement this Association gave rise to for revolutionary activities in India also came to be known by the designation of Ghadr.

It is said that by 1908 about 5000 Indians had entered Canada. 99% of which were Punjabis and 90% Sikhs. Many Indians were also sudying at various universities all over USA. Americans and few Indians established Indo-American National Association. Many students from prominent universities like Berkeley University, Stanford and Harvard joined this association. Lala Hardayal of Stanford University, Sant Teja Singh of Harvard University, and Bhai Parmanand decided to get more students belonging to the poor families for Higher education in the USA and Canada.

Indians who went to the United States and Canada came from rural farming middle class and labour, a large number of among them being ex-servicemen. In the beginning, the Indians went to San Francisco and Stockton in California, Portland and St. John in Oregon and Washington states and to Vancouver and and Victoria in British Columbia n Canada. Such persons as Amar Singh and Gopal Singh who had gone to America in 1905, and Tarak Nath Das and Ram Nath Puri who followed them, starting preaching against the British rule in India. They also started a paper called Azadi ka circular in Urdu. This paper was distributed among the armed forces in India to rouse them against the British. Result was that Canadian government which was under British rule started harassing them. White labour was encouraged to harass foreign labour, while Chinese and Japanese government protested against these atrocities against their nationals, Indian goverment did nothing. The Canadian government further tightened the entry of Indians into Canada. It passed a legislation that newcomers would not be permitted to land on the Canadian soil "unless they came from the country of their birth or citizenship by a continuous journey, and on through tickets purchased before leaving the country of their birth or citizenship. They were also required to possess $200 against the previously fixed sum of $25.
In order to fight the unjust immigration laws, the Indians (mostly Sikhs) organized Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver in 1907 with branches in Victoria, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Fraser Hill, Duncan Coombs and Ocean falls. The Sikhs built a Gurdwara at Vancouver which was inaugrated in January 1908. In 1909 only 6 Indians were allowed to visit Canada. Same year Indian immigrants organized Hindustan Association under the presidentship of Bhai Bhag Singh Bhikkivind. Its objectives were to establish Indian rule in India, provision of safeguards from loot by foreigners, etc. The association started two newspapers, Pardesi Khalsa in Punjabi and Svedesh Sevak in Urdu. These activities awakened the Indian immigrants. Persons like Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Harnam Singh Tundilat, Udham Singh Kasel, Rakha Ram, Ishar Singh Marhana and others would collect on sundays and other holidays and ponder over the problems. St John and Seattle become center of their activities.
In 1912, at Portland Hindustani Association of Pacific coast was formed with Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna as its president and GD kumar as the general secretary, later Mr Kumar fell ill and his place was taken by Lala Hardyal. Aim of the party was explained as "Today, there begins in foreign lands.. a war agaist British raj.. What is your name? Ghadr. What is your work? Ghadr. Where will Ghadr break out? in India. The time will soon come when rifles and blood will take the place of pen and ink." In simple words, their aim was to get rid of the British raj in India through an armed rebellion.
The first issue of the Ghadr, in Urdu, came out in November 1913 and that in Punjabi a weeks later. The paper was distributed to politico- Indian centres in United States, Canada, Phillipines, Fiji, Sumatra, Japan, Shanghai,Hong Kong, Hankow, Java, Singapore, Malaya Siam, Burma, India and East Afria . Occasionally Ghadr published the following advertisement:Wanted: Enthusiastic and heroic soldiers for
organizing Ghadr in Hindustan:
Renumeration: Death
Reward : Martyrdom
Pension : Freedom
Field of work : Hindustan.

Ghadar Di Goonj was published in Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi. This poetry was hard hitting and simple:
Kuli Kuli Pukarda Jag Saanun Saada Jhulda Kitey Nishan Kiyon Nahin
Kikoon Bachangey Sada Ghulam Rahkey Saanun Rajniti Wala Giyan Kiyon Nahin
Dhayi Totru Kha Gaye Khet Sada Hindustan da Koi Kisan Kiyon Nahin
Marna Bhala Ghulami di Zindagi Ton Nahin Sukhan eh Man Bhulaavney Da
Mulk Jaagyaya Cheen Jo Ghook Suta Dhol Vajyaya Hind Jagaawanney Da
Saanun Lord Na Panditan Kazian Di Nahin Shok Hai Berda Dubavaney Da
Jap Jaap Da Waqt Bateet Hoya Vella Aa Giya Teg Uthavney Da
Pardhkey Ghadr Akhbar Nun Khabar Lagi Vela Aa Giya Ghadr Machavaney Da

(We are called coolies in countries abroadWe do not have a flag of our ownWill we always live the life of slaves?Why do we not know the science of politics?A handful people have taken control of our landWhy is not there a caretaker of Hindustan?)
(It is better to die than live a life of servitudeWe should never forget this sayingChina has awakened from its sleepBattle drums of Hindustan's awakening are ragingWe do not need Pandits or KazisAs we do not want our ship to sinkThe time for prayers and Puja is pastThis is the time to pick up the swordThe Ghadar paper is proclaimingThat the time for revolt is here)
It also stated which organisational steps people must take:
Khufiya Raj Societiyan Karo Kaayam Rall Marhatey Bengali De Yaar Ho Jayo
Hindu Sikh Te Momno Karo Jaldi Ik Dusrey De Madadgar Ho Jayo
Ghar Ghar Gupti Sabha Banayo
Logan Ko Mantar Sikhlayo
Har Aik Dil Main Jot Jagayo
Binan Joot Yeh Bhoot Na Jaayi
Jaldi Ghadar Macha Diyo Bhai
(Establish secret political organizationsBengalis and Marathis all should get togetherHindu, Sikh and Muslims all should uniteAnd stand together with each other)
(Form secret societies in every householdArouse the people with the Mantra of freedomStart the spark in every heartWithout force the scourge of British colonialism will not leaveHurry to the call of revolution)
They described the conditions of Hindustan:
Bhukhey Marnn Bacchey Kaall Vich Sadey Khatti Khann Saadi Englistan Walley
Kannak Beejkey Khann Nun Jaun Mildey Paisa Chhadadey Nahin Laggan Valley
Laayiya Tax Firangiyan Bahut Yaaro Bhukhey Marann Gharib Dukaan Valley
Karo Paltan Nun Khabardar Jaakey Sutey Payey Kiyon Teg Chalaan Valley
Musalmaan Pathan Balwan Dogar Singh Soormey Yudh Machaann Valley
Hindustaniyan Morchey Fatey Keetey Burma, Misar Te Cheen Sudan Valley
(Our children are dying in faminesThe English are enjoying the fruit or our toilWe sow wheat but we get barley to eatWe are not left with a penny, all is taken by the tax collectorsThe English have levied heavy taxesPoor shopkeepers are dying of hungerGo and arouse the armyWhy those who wield the sword are asleep?Brave Muslims, Pathans and DograsValiant Sikhs in the battlefieldHindustanis fighting on fronts inBurma, China, Egypt and Sudan)
They exposed the so-called leaders of the Hindustanis, the collaborators of the British:
Jattan Sidhiyan Nun Koi Dosh Nahin Sadey Leaderan Da Manda Haal Singho
Rai Bandran Mulk Veeran Kita Piyar Rakhdey Bandran Nal Singho
Sanun Paas Angrez De Bechaya Hai Aap Mulk De Banney Dalal Singho
(The common folk is not to be blamedOur 'leaders' are traitorsRai Bhadurs, copy cats of the British, have ruined our landThey have sold us to the BritishAnd have become pimps of the British)

The Ghadr party president often visited the Indian groups to exhort them to join freedom movement. Lala Hardyal general secretary was arrested on the pretext of a speech delievered by him three years earlier. Baba Sohna Singh now became the general secretary, Bhai Santokh Singh became President, editing of paper was taken over by Bhai Harnam singh of Kotla Naudh singh. The party's plan was to invade Kashmir from China, then go for the Punjab followed by other provinces. The members started getting training in the use of weapons and making of bombs; several got training in flying aircraft also. One of them, Harnam singh, had his hand blown off while in process of bomb making, and he was thence onwrds known as Tundilat, the armless knight.
The party carried out considerable propaganda in Japan where Maulawi Barkat Ullah was professor in Tokyo University. His prescence attracted many muslims to Ghadr Party. The Kamagatu Maru incident added fuel to fire. The first world war broke out in July 1914. On 5 August, leading memers of Ghadr party declared war on the British and decided to take advantage of the involvement of British in the war. The Ghadr party declared war on the British and decided to come to India to carry out armed revolution against the British.
Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna and his companions left for India on 22 August 1914, the first ship with 26 Indians left Vancouver; on 29 August, another ship with 60-70 Indians left San Francisco for India. According to government records, 2312 Indian Ghadr men had entered India between 13 October 1914 and 25 February 1915. Their influx continued till 1916 when their number increased to more than 8,000. But it is likely that the Ghadr men had entered India in greater numbers than the government knew. Government was very active and at least 50% of them were arrested or confined to their villages by state governments.
The Ghadr party established a new press and published small pamphlets such as: Ghadr Sandesh, Ailan-i-Jang, Tilak, Nadar Mauqa, Rikab~gan;, Canada da Duhhra, Naujavan Utho, Sachchz Pukar, and so on. These pamphlets were published in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi, and were distributed among the public and the soldiers. The party also produced their own flag having red, yellow and green colours. Dr Mathura Singh supervised factories producing armaments.
The party members contacted students. They contacted soldiers stationed especially at Mian Mir (Lahore), Jalandhar, Firozpur, Peshawar, Jehlum, Rawalpindl, Mardan, Kohat, Bannu, Ambala, Meerut, Kanpur and Agra cantonments. The soldiers were generally in sympathy with the movement. Many party workers joined the army with a view to obtaining arms and ammunition. Contacts were also established with Bengal revolutionaries such as Rash Behari Bose whose close companions were Sachin Sanyal and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle. Pingle acted as a link between the Ghadr party and Bengalis.
The movement faced financial difficulties in India. The expenses had increased owing to opening of various branches, travelling, purchase of arms and ammunition and publications. Money was not easily available as it was in foreign countries. To overcome this difficulty, the party had to resort to forcible acquisition of funds by under-taking political dacoities.
All the preparations completed, the party executive met on 12 February 1915, and decided to start the rebellion on 21 February. Their plan was simultaneously to attack and capture Mian Mir and Firozpur cantonments; 128th Pioneer and 12 Cavalry were to capture Meerut Cantonment and then proceed to Delhi. Units in cantonments in northern 21 India were expected to join the rebellion.
The British Government had intelligence men posted at railway stations in cities and in important villages. The lambardars, zaildars and other village functionaries were also alerted to provide information. The government had managed to plant informers in the Ghadr party itself. Before the new leadership came forward and reorganized the movement's plans, the British Government "knew much more about their designs and was in a better position to cope with them." In spite of this, the Ghadrites in the central Punjab murdered policemen and informers and attempted to derail trains and blow up bridges. Factories for preparing bombs were established. All this made the government feel that they were "living over a mine full of explosives . "
When the party learnt that the information about the D-Day had leaked, they advanced the date of rebellion to 19 February, but this information also reached the police through their informer, Kirpal. The police raided the party headquarters at four different places in Lahore and arrested 13 of the "most dangerous revolutionaries." All cantonments were alerted and the Indian troops placed under vigilance; some were even disarmed. Arrests of Ghadr men took place all over the Punjab. Rash Behari Bose, with the help of Kartar Singh Sarabha, escaped from lahore to Varanasi: Vishnu Ganesh Pingle was arrested at Meerut on 23 March 1915. All the leaders were put in the lahore jail.
The government of the Punjab sought and the Government of India passed under the Defence of India Act wide powers to the Punjab Government who formed a special tribunal of three judges, including one Indian, to try the Ghadr men in the Central Jail, Lahore. Thus the rebellion was smashed by the government before it had really taken shape.
The Ghadr men were tried by the Special Tribunal in what are known as Lahore conspiracy cases in batches. The trial of the first batch began on 26 April 1915. In all, 291 persons were tried and sentenced as under: death for 42, 114 were transported for life, 93 awarded varying terms of imprisonment, 42 were acquitted. Confiscation of property was ordered in the case of many. No one appealed against the punishments. Those who were hanged included Kartar Singh Sarabha, Jagat Singh (Sursingh) Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, Harnam Singh Sialkoti, Bakshish Singh (son of Ishar Singh), Bhai Balvant Singh (Khurdpur), Babu Ram, Harnam Singh, Hafiz Abdulla and Rur Singh (Sanghval).
Under the circumstances, the army units which had promised to join the revolution kept quiet. However, some units such as 26 Punjabi, 7 Rajput, 12 Cavalry, 23 Cavalry, 128 Pioneers, Malaya State Guides,23 Mountain Battery, 24Jat Artillery, 15 Cancers, 22 Mountain Battery,130 Baluch and 21 Punjabi did come out in the open. About 700 men of 5 Light Infantry, located in Singapore, mutineed on 15 February and took possession of the fort. The rebellion was subdued by the British troops; 126 men were tried by court martial which sentenced 37 to death, 41 to transportation for life, and the remy ing to varying terms of imprisonment Soldiers from other units were punished as under: Death Transportation
23 Cavalry
12 Cavalry
130 Baluch
128 Pioneers
1 for life
The party workers also went to Iran and Iraq to instigate Indian troops against the British, and to Turkey to exhort Indian prisoners to fight for India's freedom. In Iran, the party was able to raise an Indian Independence Army. The Army advanced towards Baluchistan, and en route capttlred Kirmanshah. Then they advanced along the coast towards Karachi. Meanwhile, Turkey was defeated and the British had occupied Baghdad. The Indian Independence Army thus losing its base was also defeated.
The Ghadr party contacted Germany, Turkey, Afghanistan, China and other countries, but not much help came from any of these. Germany sympathized with the Ghadr party and occasionally tried to render some help in the form of weapons and money, but these often failed to reach the party. For instance, 5,000 revolvers on board Heny S. which sailed from Manila were captured en route by the British. Germany had also formed an Oriental Bureau for translating and disseminating inflammatory literature to the Indian prisoners of war in Germany.
During World War I, revolutionaries from most countries had gone to Switzerland, which was a neutral country. The Indians there formed Indian Revolutionary Society, also known as Berlin-lndia Committee. The Society had formed a provisional government at Kabul, but had no contacts with the Indian public. The Ghadr party established links with the Society and both agreed to help each other. Germany sent financial help to the Society but, on learning that it was being misappropriated, discontinued it. The Society soon collapsed. No sum ever reached the Ghadr party.
The Ghadr movement, as says O 'Dwyer, "was by far the most serious attempt to subvert British rule in India."
Most of the workers were illiterate—only 25 of them knew Urdu or Punjabi. Still they organized a strong movement which for the time being thrilled the country and made the British panic. Although the movement was suppressed, it provided nucleus for the Akali movement that followed a few years later. The Ghadr leaders were especially prominent among the Babar Akalis.


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